Taliban gains in Afghanistan threaten costly US reconstruction effort

Taliban gains in Afghanistan threaten costly US reconstruction effort

The United States has wasted billions of dollars in reconstruction aid to Afghanistan over the past decade, and now a renewed Taliban insurgency is threatening the gains that have been made, the U.S government's top watchdog on Afghanistan said, Reuters reported.

"The bottom line is too much has been wasted in Afghanistan. Too much money was spent in too small a country with too little oversight," John Sopko told Reuters. "And if the security situation continues to deteriorate, even areas where money was spent wisely and gains were made, could be jeopardized."

The nearly $113 billion Congress has appropriated for reconstruction since 2001, when U.S.-led forces invaded the country and toppled the Taliban regime, has long been plagued by corruption, waste and mismanagement, according to a series of reports from Sopko, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).Appointed by President Barack Obama, Sopko has led the watchdog agency for nearly four years. He said the planned drawdown of U.S. troops could compound the reconstruction effort's problems and add to the amount that already has been wasted, which he estimated is in the billions of dollars.

According to Sopko's latest report, issued in April, U.S. reconstruction funding for Afghanistan includes projects for programs to combat the drug trade, build electric power lines, develop new industries, improve the banking and legal systems and modernize agriculture, which the report says "employs more than 50 percent of the labor force".

While he declined to comment on how many American troops he thinks should remain in Afghanistan, his new warning could increase the pressure on Obama to reconsider his timeline for reducing the U.S. force in Afghanistan from about 9,800 today to 5,500 by the time he leaves office in January.

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